Pros and Cons of Acupuncture, Ayurveda & Reiki

Naturally, when you are sick, you want to get better as quickly as possible, with as few side effects as possible. Many patients try alternative treatments, but are they safe and effective? Read my recent post to learn general information relating to non-traditional treatments, referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This post covers the pros and cons of acupuncture, Ayurveda and reiki.

Additionally, read these blog posts on the pros and cons of other common CAM treatments:

Like most medical treatments, most CAM treatments involve some degree of risk. And like all things in life, some are better than others. So do your research, talk to your doctor, and be realistic about potential outcomes. And don’t skip your traditional treatments while undergoing CAM treatments.


Acupuncture is a family of procedures involving the stimulation of points on the body using a variety of techniques, commonly using thin needles. Practiced for thousands of years, acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine.

Does it work?

photo person getting acupuncture needle in arm - pros and cons of acupunctureMaybe. Research suggests that acupuncture can help patients with certain pain conditions, including back and neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain, and headache. However, the value of acupuncture for other health issues is uncertain. But we should learn more in the coming years as researchers are starting to study the helpfulness of acupuncture for various health conditions.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when an experienced, well-trained practitioner uses sterile needles. However, improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious problems, including infections, punctured organs, collapsed lungs, and injury to the central nervous system. So, choose a practitioner wisely.

How common is it in the US?

Millions of Americans use acupuncture each year, often for chronic pain.


This is a traditional Hindu system of medicine, based on the idea of balance in bodily systems, using diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.

Does it work?

A few studies suggest that Ayurvedic preparations may reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis and may help patients with type 2 diabetes manage their symptoms. But, and this is important, most of the trials were small and/or not well-designed. According to the NIH, there is little scientific evidence that Ayurveda is a valuable treatment.

Is it safe?

Not always. Ayurvedic preparations may contain toxic amounts of lead, mercury, or arsenic.

Talk to your doctor and proceed with skepticism and caution.

Is it commonly used?

About 240,000 US adults use Ayurvedic medicine.


photo woman getting reiki treatment - pros and cons of acupunctureReiki, also referred to as energy healing, involves a Reiki practitioner placing his/her hands lightly on or just above a person, to direct energy to help facilitate a person’s own healing response. It’s based on an Eastern belief of an energy that supports the body’s natural healing abilities.

Does it work?

There is no clear evidence that Reiki is effective for any health-related purpose. Researchers have evaluated Reiki for a variety of conditions, including pain, anxiety, and depression, but the results have been inconsistent. Furthermore, most of the research has not been of high quality. Finally, there’s no scientific evidence supporting the existence of the energy field thought to play a role in Reiki.

Is it safe?

Yes. There are no known harmful effects of Reiki.

How common is it?

According to a 2007 survey, 1.2 million US adults tried Reiki (or a similar energy therapy) at least once in the previous year.



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